Coal dust, speeding trucks irk Shoemaker Circle residents

PORTAGE – Close to two dozen Shoemaker Circle residents pleaded with township supervisors to address years-old problems with Amfire Mining Company at a Wednesday evening meeting.

Several yielded their speaking time to resident John Nicholson, who described their many complaints over coal dust, road destruction and speeding trucks.

Nicholson distributed copies of township ordinances dealing with public nuisances, road weight limits and noise, air and water pollution, and asked why the supervisors aren’t enforcing them.

He said approximately 50 residents, himself included, live along Shoemaker Circle and their lives are disrupted by hundreds of trucks hauling coal, scattering coal dust and destroying township roads.

“Amfire should foot the bill for the township maintenance right now … because they’re the ones that caused the problem,” he said.

Parents also are concerned, Nicholson said, that speeding trucks could hit and kill children.

“I drove a tractor-trailer for 20 years. I know there are blind spots,” he said.

There also is an environmental concern with runoff and sludge seeping into residents’ yards and homes.

“My yard is full of sludge,” said Shoemaker Circle resident Betty Bracken.

Bracken said she, her husband and sister sometimes have to haul over a foot of water out of her basement, and the sludge is so damaging she worries grass will never grow in her yard again.

Chairman Supervisor Bill Cooper said he understood residents’ frustrations, adding that he and Supervisor Richard Olshavsky had met with Amfire representatives last month to discuss some of the issues.

An Amfire spokesman was not available for comment late Wednesday evening, but Olshavsky said the company is receptive to making some changes.

Some of the solutions include a dust fence around the coal stacks and an electronic water-spraying system to cut down on dust, and numbering coal trucks for residents to better identify habitual speeders, he said.

Supervisors also are pushing an alternative truck route which, he said, would eliminate many of the problems.

Some residents remained skeptical that their complaints would be seriously considered by Amfire, but with a company walk-through of the roadway scheduled for next week, Nicholson said he’s hopeful progress can be made.

“If we can stop some of this dust and this black [sludge] … hey, we’ve gained something,” Nicholson said.

Supervisors also approved scheduling a special meeting to discuss funding and construction of a long-awaited township garage to store equipment. A date had not been set as of Wednesday night.

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.